Dense fog

Abatement of deteriorating 120-year-old landmark put on hold for 30 days

The Ukiah City Council has given the owner of the decaying, historic Palace Hotel another month to fix its safety issues before moving forward with abatement.

"It seems like we get cold feet every time it seems like we have to save the building with our own money," Councilman Phil Baldwin said Wednesday night. He nevertheless voted with the other four council members to give the hotel's owner, Eladia Laines, another reprieve.

The council does not want to demolish the Palace Hotel, he noted. But it could cost the city more than $1 million to make repairs and do a seismic retrofit.

Laines told them Wednesday night she has potential investors who are interested in refurbishing the hotel, which could cost upward of $7 million, but council members said they won't believe it until they see it.

"I'm skeptical of your plans," Mayor Mary Ann Landis told Laines, noting that her promises to rehabilitate the hotel date back more than 20 years.

But, after 2? hours of debate and discussion, the council voted to once more delay action. They told Laines instead that she must present a clear proposal to city planners within two weeks and that progress must be made within 30 days or they could proceed with the abatement order.

They also told Laines they want to see proof that she actually is the hotel's owner, a question that has arisen periodically. Title to the hotel has remained in the name Questex, the partnership Laines and other investors formed when they bought the Palace. Questex no longer exists.

Laines, a Marin County real estate agent, first with partners, now on her own, has been promising to restore the 120-year-old landmark for more than 21 years.

But the hotel has been vacant and in decline since she and the former partners bought it in a bankruptcy sale in 1990 for $115,000. The building takes up most of a city block and is the scourge of downtown improvement efforts.

When prodded, Laines periodically has made repairs and big promises. In 2009, she announced plans to build shops on the ground level and condominiums above, but the plans went nowhere.

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